This week saw the television launch of an exciting new female superhero, direct from Islamabad, Pakistan: The Burka Avenger!
The star of the animated series of thirteen, 22-minute episodes is a teacher who uses books and pens to fight the evil people who shut down schools and prevent girls from getting an education. The humorous show also teaches kids to protect the environment, and, good news for the Cultural Detective community, to respect diversity and include others.
Each episode features an original song and guest appearances by some of the biggest musical acts in South Asia, including Ali Zafar, Haroon, Ali Azmat, Adil Omar, and Josh. Goals include entertainment and positive messages to youth. The series’ trailer (in English) is below.
The Burka Avenger is the brainchild of Aaron Haroon Rashid, a Pakistan pop star who wanted to create a positive role model to counter the Taliban’s ongoing opposition to girls’ education. In explaining the choice of the burka, which the teacher, Jiya, only wears in superhero mode, Rashid explained, “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes. Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”
Of course this may well remind us of the indomitable Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban famously attempted to assassinate last October. On her 16th birthday this past July 12, the amazingly poised and well-spoken Malala delivered the first-ever education policy recommendations written for youth, by youth, to the United Nations (video below). July 12th has now been named Malala Day in her honor.
It is not just Pakistan where girls’ rights to education are in danger. Fortunately, the people at Mighty Girl Books have assembled a terrific list of books for children and teens that explore the challenge of girls’ access to education, worldwide and throughout history.
You may also remember the comic book series “The 99,” in which superheroes inspired by Islam (they are named after the 99 attributes of Allah) fight crime, smash stereotypes and battle extremism. Series creator Naif Al-Mutawa gave a talk at TED Global 2010. A video of his talk is below, and a free online issue is also available.